Just how talented are the Dodgers left-handed hitters?
There’s been a lot of talk about the Dodgers’ lineup being too lefty-heavy. With all of those lefties, do they at least have the best lefties in baseball?
Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and to a slightly lesser degree Max Muncy all are favorably viewed around the sport as either being great hitters or potentially great hitters. Bellinger obviously had the best season this year, and his 47 home runs helped the Dodgers’ lefty hitters hit the most home runs in baseball. But even without Belli’s production, the team would have been in the top-10 in homers by lefties in 2019.
It comes to more than home runs though of course. The team’s lefties also had the highest OBP and SLG, and thus the highest OPS with an impressive .867 mark. Even more analytically, the team’s lefties wRC+, WOBA, and ISO all were the best in the game as well.
The Dodgers also were frequently called out for striking out too much and not walking enough. But the Dodgers’ lefties actually were the fifth-best in terms of walk rate and had the fifth-lowest strikeout rate. Even better, the home run numbers are backed up by a league-best HR/FB rate and a league-high in hard contact rate.
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The team clearly has a strong corps of left-handed hitters in terms of the overall numbers, but how did they do with runners in scoring position and against the shift, two of the most important scenarios for the Dodgers.
With runners in scoring position, the Dodgers’ lefties had the most home runs in baseball and the most RBI, with the highest OPS and wRC+ as well, with the second most walks, though the strikeout numbers placed them in the bottom half of the league. The Dodgers were even one of the more clutch teams, as they had the most RBI and the third-highest SLG with two outs and runners in scoring position.
Against the shift, the results are a mixed bag. The lefties still had the best hard-hit rate in the game, but for whatever reason, they could not pull the ball or go up the middle, they had the second-highest pull rate in the game when facing the shift.
All of this points to the Dodgers being quite possibly the best left-handed hitting team in all of baseball, and yet this did little to help the team in postseason against the Nationals. Did the lefties struggle in the postseason only because the Nationals left and right-handed starting pitchers were elite, or more specifically were elite against lefties?
Let’s take a look.
Of the Nationals four postseason starters, three of the four had ERAs below 4.00 against lefties during the regular season (Anibal Sanchez had an ERA of 4.62). Corbin’s sub-1.50 ERA and insane 14.2 K/9 acts as an outlier, as Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg both have K/9’s between 10 and 13, and ERAs between 3.40 and 4.00. These numbers, outside of Corbin’s, are not elite, but the strikeout numbers are solid, and both have solid postseason histories.
Really, it could just come down to the Dodgers’ lefties having a bad postseason, and having to face an ace and two solid righties probably doesn’t help that slump go away. We’ll just have to wait and see how the offseason of reflection affects these potent lefties’ bats.